4 Takeaways from The Classic at Damien
The Classic at Damien in La Verne is always one of the best holiday hoops events in the nation and didn't disappoint this year. The Platinum Division featured some top teams around the nation, including teams from Nevada, Idaho, Washington, and Utah in addition to the many Californian teams in the event.
Let's take a look at some takeaways from this year's exciting event...
Liberty (NV) displays heart over height (and rankings)
Nevada’s Liberty Patriots may be known for their star player 2024 4-star Dedan Thomas Jr., but they have many others who contribute to their successes. That showed as they walked away as champions at The Classic. Utah Tech commit Angelo Kambala ended up winning tournament MVP, scoring 23 points (seven three-pointers) in the championship game victory over Harvard-Westlake and showcasing his energy and dominance on each end of the floor throughout the event. Great work by Utah Tech, who definitely got a steal in adding Kambala. Tyus Thomas, Andre Porter, and Kaeden Castillero are a few other key contributors that bring energy and play their roles perfectly. Liberty is a gritty and tough team that may be undersized and underrated but plays with so much heart that they are able to compete and take down ranked teams. Liberty took down Notre Dame who has one 5-star, two 4-stars, and a 3-star, Rancho Christian who has one 4-star and two 3-stars, and an undefeated Harvard-Westlake squad who has four 4-stars and a 3-star. Notre Dame and Harvard-Westlake were ranked coming into the event.
Liberty (NV) are champions in the platinum division of The Classic at Damien after beating Harvard-Westlake 59-56.— Griffin Greenberg (@griffgreenberg) December 31, 2022
Utah Tech commit Angelo Kambala wins MVP, scoring 23 points in the championship game. Dedan Thomas Jr. also had over 20. @angelo_kambala @dedanthomasjr @nv_liberty pic.twitter.com/cMtAfuoD9y
Patton Jr., Dunlap, Diallo, and Campbell dominate
Kevin Patton Jr.
Kevin Patton Jr. of Rancho Christian can definitely be argued as the most dominant and impactful player of The Classic. His dominant play on the week allowed him to rise up for many dunks, including posters, and collect an absurd amount of boards and blocks as he made the All-Tournament Team. He was a force all week and couldn’t be stopped. Patton Jr. is underrated and undoubtedly one of the best remaining unsigned recruits in the class of 2023.
Notre Dame commit Brady Dunlap seemed to be unguardable for most of the weekend. He used his size to shoot over defenders and was named to the All-Tournament team. He helped bring Harvard-Westlake back in multiple games, one being with his 23 points against Etiwanda where HW took over in the second half, and the other being in the championship game against Liberty.
2024 5-star Zoom Diallo of Curtis (WA) is a crafty player that uses his handles to get to spots and hit shots. He was very effective in the mid-range area and with his acrobatic finishes at the hoop at The Classic. He delivered multiple 20-point games against top talent and showcased some flashy passing and his court vision on occasion as well. Diallo and Curtis finished 3-1, including a blowout win over Rancho Christian.
The 4-star averaged 29 PPG as he and Owyhee (ID) finished with a 2-2 record. Campbell is a three-level scorer and is fun to watch, using his aggression to get to his spots and also making an impact on the boards. Owyhee’s two losses were both within one possession at The Classic and they looked impressive as a team.
West Ranch and Harvard-Westlake impress despite first losses
Both Californian teams were undefeated and climbing the national rankings entering The Classic. West Ranch won the Tarkanian Classic, beating Bishop Gorman in the championship, and Harvard-Westlake was coming off of two double-digit wins at Hoophall South in Arkansas. Despite both teams picking up their first losses of the season at The Classic, they looked impressive throughout the event. West Ranch rallied off a 25-point comeback win against Notre Dame and fought with Liberty throughout their matchup. 4-star Jazz Gardner was outstanding for the Wildcats in the event. Harvard-Westlake reached the finals after cruising by Zoom Diallo and Curtis (WA) the round before. Brady Dunlap looked good all week, knocking down shots and displaying some aggressiveness at the rim for the Wolverines. West Ranch is now 15-1 on the season and Harvard-Westlake is 16-1.
West Ranch was down 38-13 at halftime but had an incredible comeback to win in OT over Notre Dame 65-61 at @ClassicAtDamien.— Griffin Greenberg (@griffgreenberg) December 30, 2022
4⭐️ Jazz Gardner and Boise State commit Andrew Meadow combined for 40 points for West Ranch. @The_RanchHoops @JazzGardner32 @andrewmeadow_ pic.twitter.com/Or2jlBfsH9
Notre Dame has some things to figure out
Notre Dame went 1-3 at The Classic, which included giving up a 25-point halftime lead. Their one win came against Salesian in the first round, but they didn’t shoot well in that game and only won by four. Notre Dame’s key players are 5-star Duke commit Caleb Foster, 4-star Gonzaga commit Dusty Stromer, 2024 4-star Houston commit Mercy Miller, and 2024 3-star Jayden Harper. The ranked team looked a bit out of sync all weekend. In the second round, Notre Dame trailed but fought back before falling to Liberty. Stromer and Foster were big reasons for ND keeping it close. In the first half against Rancho Christian, they looked dominant and went into the break up 38-13. But a second-half collapse, which included Stromer fouling out, would force OT where Rancho Christian would capitalize and shock everyone with their comeback. Finally, Notre Dame would look a bit slow against a tough American Fork team on the final day of The Classic. Notre Dame is now 9-6 on the season and has an upcoming matchup against Corona Centennial.